Friday, April 22, 2011

Genealogical Inquiry and Information from Donald Acton

Donald Acton kindly gave me permission to republish an email that he sent us late last month, and it is full of valuable genealogical information.  If anyone has any questions or information to add please send an email to the webmaster, and I will pass them along.

Your website is of interest to me for reasons which will become obvious as I proceed. Before I do so, I would like to commend you for the tremendous amount of work in producing the website, not to forget the endless time that the research must involve.

So, who am I? My mother was a McKinnon. Her grandfather, Lauchlan McKinnon, was born at Lake Ainslee in Inverness County, N.S. in 1824. Lauchlan is the eldest, known to me, child of John McKinnon and Elizabeth McKay.  John married Elizabeth Isabel McKay, but it is not known to me whether this occurred before or after he reached Lake Ainslie. There are six children known to be born to this marriage at Lake Ainslie; Lauchlan (b. Dec. 1824), Hector (b.Oct.1827), James (b. Nov. 1833), Alexander (b. Apr. 1836), Mary (b. Feb. 1838 and Catherine (b. 1841). Lauchlan, the eldest known child, married Isobella McGregor and to them were born two sons (John Lauchlin in 1848, and Gregor, in  1849) before the entire family referred to above moved to Bruce County in Ontario in 1851.

So, who was John McKinnon and who were his ancestors? From marriage records of his children, I know that John was born in Scotland. Census records in Bruce County of Ontario suggest his birth to be in the late 1790s. His obituary, as follows, would place his birth closer to 1795."Lucknow Sentinel, Friday January 20, 1888, page 8. Passed Away. John McKinnon, father of Alexander McKinnon, of this town passed away peacefully at Langside on Monday last. Deceased had seen the snows of many winters, having lived to the good old age 92. His boyhood was passed in years fraught with might moment to the world's history, and in his long lifetime he endured many crosses and losses, but which he bore manfully. He was a very devout man, upright in all his ways, God-fearing and God loving. He was interred in Culross cemetery on Thursday last."

There is a close match for this birth in the Old Parish Registers, as follows:"OPR Reference 551.2/2. Parish of Tiree, Island of Coll, Frame 24, April 29, 1795 Neil McKinnon and Marion McNeill , Grishipol, a son John" . 

To know that John was born on Coll would add confidence to linking John McKinnon in the obituary to John McKinnon in the OPR. The History of Inverness County makes reference to a John McKinnon as follows: "In the year 1828 Allan McLeal bought a farm on Ainslie Point from John McKinnon. John had previously bought this land from the original settler Mr. Norman McLeod." and on pg 341. "John McKinnon from Cull, Scotland was the next neighbour to the immigrant, Roderick McLean. After spending some years at Loch Ban, Mr. McKinnon decided to try his fortune in Upper Canada. He therefore sold his farm to Angus Kennedy, son of Red John Kennedy of Broad Cove Marsh, who spent the remaining years of his life there. (Index to Deeds and Grant Books, Inverness Co. N.S. Film # 1888973. Angus Kennedy, had the lot granted to him by the crown in 1859. The grant is in Book "A" pg 337). These references link a John McKinnon from Coll to a John McKinnon that moved to Ontario about 1851 and help to substantiate the assumption that the John McKinnon in the obituary was one and the same as the John McKinnon in the OPR. The N.S. Miscellaneous Land Papers 1820-1864 Film #1378407 provide some insight into when John McKinnon emigrated: "The name John McKinnon is mentioned 3 times. The first in 1820, as receiving a settlers ticket at Sydney C.B. The next time was in 1822 signing a petition for land. The third was in 1836, when he wrote a letter to the governor in support of a neighbour who had been burned out. And the 1841 Census Township of Ainslie Eastern Half : Record 131 Film 5220. There is a family of John McKinnon not far from Donald McGregor, Duncan McGregor and Gregor McGregor. John's family consisted of: 2 girls under 6 years; 2 boys under 14 years; 2 boys over 14 years; 1 girl over 14 years; With John the family has eight members.  While the census does not agree perfectly with children referred to above, there is close enough agreement to consider a positive relationship between these two families. Also, the marriage of Lauchlan to Isabell McGregor, possibly a neighbourhood girl, is suggestive of a positive relationship.

To make a long story short, my best position on John McKinnon is that he was born in Grishipoll, Coll in April 1795, the son of Neil McKinnon and Marian McNeil. However, I have some reservation on this assessment. First, the name "Neil" does not appear in descendants of John McKinnon. There is always the possibility that John did have a son named Neil, presumably his eldest son, who is unknown to me for several possible reasons. The second reason, and this relates to your ancestry. In a letter in 1980, Charles McKinnon from Sudbury, whom you refer to, suggested to me  that my McKinnon line descended from Charles L. son of Alan as presented in Hugh MacDonald's book. At that time, I did not know that John was the father of Lauchlan (b. 1825). Unfortunately, Charles died before I could pursue matters further. If there is a link between "my" John McKinnon and those presented by MacDonald it may be that John was a cousin of Archibald (b. 1784), Ailean Ban (b. 1786) and Anne. My current attempt to trace ancestry of John is based on the assumption that he was, indeed, born in Coll to Neil McKinnon and Marian McNeil in 1795. Neil McKinnon was born 9 May 1769 at Essay, Tobermory, Isle of Mull. He married Marian McNeill 3 Dec. 1789 at Coll. Neill and Marian had four children, all born on Coll: Donald (b.Sept.1790), Kate (b. Jul.1793), and John and Margaret (b.Apr. 1795). Neil's parents were Neil McKinnon and Mary McGillivray. I can find no further record of John's siblings, parents or grandparents.

I would be most appreciative if you or some in your group could further enlighten me on my McKinnon ancestors.

Donald Acton"


  1. I've started working on my family's gen. Relying on an old family 'tree', and Ancestory. I know that my Gr grandfather was a Neil John MacKinnon, married Ann MacNeil and lived in the area of Saint Rose, NS (Ponds). They were a Roman Catholic family, which is significant for the area and time. They have 7 or 8 children. His eldest son, my grandfather, was John Neil MacKinnon, born 1880, same local. John Neil moved to Edmonton abt 1915 and was an Edmonton Police officer. John Neil married Marjorie Gillis(born 1884) in 1901. They had 10 or 11 children. I have my brother's DNA (Y), posted to Ancestory, but I haven't pursued here. Do you think you are in this long Catholic chain of MacKinnons?

    1. Neil b. 1841 at Green Hill (St. Rose) married Ann Gillis (not MacNeil) on Jun 29, 1878 at Broad cove. She was the daughter of John Gillis and Margaret Gillis of South West Margaree. Not sure yet who Neil was.